Thinking of planning a wedding ceremony out of town or even out of the country? Lerone Landis and Danny Valle did it all as simply as 1,2,3
After nearly 10 years together, Lerone Landis and Danny Valle were about as long-term as a couple can be without tying the knot. But as their 10th anniversary neared, they decided it was time to formalize their relationship.
“We had talked about it for a long time. I asked him to marry me, so we figured we’d do it on our 10-year anniversary,” says Valle. “When Canada legalized same-sex married, we decided it was time.”
“I’m the furthest thing from a wedding expert,” says Landis, whom Valle credits with doing most of the work. But the investigating he did proved useful to planning their ceremony it takes place next month and he agreed to share some of the potholes to avoid. While each experience will be different, the general rules hold true whether doing something local or out-of-town.
Step 1: Choose where you want to go first. Traditional heterosexual couples can marry just about anywhere Vegas, their local church, on-board a ship in the Caribbean. It’s a little more difficult for same-sex couples, who don’t have the same rights everywhere in the world or even the United States.
And for Landis and Valle, what they called their union did make a difference.
“We really wanted to make sure we did a marriage,” says Landis. “Not to take anything away from couples who get civil unions, but we were both really set on a marriage whenever it was legal.”
In the U.S., only Massachusetts calls a same-sex union “marriage,” but when Landis and Valle started planning, the state enforced a residency requirement. So they decided to go to Canada. But because it is one of the largest countries in the world, they had to narrow their scope. They knew that the venture would be a joint ceremony-honeymoon, so they needed to look at several factors.
“We’d never been to Canada, but we made it a choice between Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver,” Landis says. After deciding on those major cities, they searched the Internet and asked friends for their advice. A buddy from Seattle very close to Vancouver highly recommended the city, as did a close pal who knew Landis’ personality. “It’s the furthest, but it’s the best choice,” he says.
The main appeal was the city itself. Vancouver has both mountains and beaches, and while it doesn’t have the biggest gay community, “it is an international city and that kind of stuff appeal to me; the entire city is very gay-friendly,” says Landis.
Step 2: Start early, and keep scheduling in mind with everything. When trying to do any wedding, especially those out of town or in a city you’ve never been to, start well in advance, they counsel. “Many cities have party planners but that can set you back some money,” Landis says. “The fact that it’s out of town plays a part in the stress,” echoes Valle.
In their case, Landis and Valle knew the exact date they wanted for their ceremony: June 11, their 10th anniversary. It actually helped their plans that June 11 falls on a Monday this year.
“It was kind of an odd time, but it was easier to book a place because it fell on a Monday,” he says. “Summertime is a prime time for weddings, so booking on a Monday actually made it easier. The weekends and Fridays are usually pretty well-booked in summertime in a very touristy place,” especially for weddings.
Of course, the oddness of the day also presented certain challenges several facilities they considered renting were closed on Monday.
Canada also requires couples to obtain proper licenses before the ceremony, so it’s important to take municipal business hours into account. Valle and Landis will arrive in Vancouver on a Saturday, but have confirmed that they can do their paperwork at that time.
Step 3: Booking a hotel. This most prosaic of travel activities proved surprisingly complex for Valle and Landis.
“It wasn’t as easy as you might think. It wasn’t just about finding a good deal, but also staying some place that is gay-friendly. Sexual orientation is protected throughout Canada so you wouldn’t have to worry about being denied a room per se, but we wanted to feel comfortable,” Landis says.
They scoured the Internet for gay-wedding and gay-Canada Web sites. “There was quite a bit to choose from,” Valle says.
Although they looked at some bed & breakfasts, those were mostly in the suburbs, and much of what they wanted was in downtown Vancouver. (They opted for a high-end luxury hotel that seemed gay-friendly.)
Step 4: Finding an official. Perhaps most important of all was finding an officiant to marry them. The Canadian equivalent of the justice of the peace is called a commissioner, so they went back to the Internet. The cities provided a list of commissioners to choose from; it became a matter “of calling several and finding out who had the best vibe, and seeing if their schedule fit so they could do it on the day we wanted to,” says Landis.
After several interviews, they settled on a female commissioner who turned out to be a useful resource in the next step.
Step 5: Deciding on a welcoming venue for the ceremony (and reception). “Our original plan was just to go up there get married at city hall, say I do-I do, go kiss-kiss and enjoy the rest of the week,” Landis says. But British Columbia law, they found, prohibits having a ceremony at city hall. “That threw a wrench into things.”
They spent the next two weeks e-mailing and calling all over Vancouver. The commissioner even offered some ideas.
“Going back to the gay-friendliness, we wanted a place where they wouldn’t turn us away,” Landis says. “I wanted to make sure the atmosphere was inviting.” Finally, they found an upscale restaurant that, while it has done few gay weddings, was happy to host their ceremony and the dinner for the small wedding party that follows.
“And there was no charge to use the room!” Landis brags. “Let me tell ya these Canadians are too nice; maybe I need to take my resume up there.”
Step 6: Doing it all over again. Aside from the happily-ever-after part, that could be the end of the story. Except Valle and Landis are already planning another event here in Dallas.
“We’re not only going out of town but out of the country,” Landis says. A reception back in Dallas is “99 percent done,” but they haven’t even picked out a place yet. They’ll need to find a venue, a caterer, a florist, perhaps even someone to recreate their vows-taking.
They’ll work it out some other time. But at least they know where to start.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, April 27, 2007.